This guide details the many aspects of the game that are unique to the Yellow Turban factions.
Reasons to Play Yellow Turbans (Pros and Cons)
- Much more diverse unit roster.
- Any generic general can become far stronger than existing legendary han characters.
- Better skills for generals.
- More balanced economy, all three income types are very viable.
- Roleplay as fanatics.
- Access to many more ancillaries.
- Use buildings more effectively, rather than just for economy.
- Far more freedom with research.
- You miss out on the spy mechanics.
- You don't get to use all the regular legendary characters.
- Rather bad garrisons.
- Starts can be dependent on luck.
- Not much diplomacy.
Buildings and Economy
This is a good place to begin. One of the fundamental differences, is that the yellow turbans have a more powerful set of buildings, and their economy can be built in many different directions.
The economy in Three Kingdoms is very centered around percentages, and your characters can contribute huge amount of percentages overall, since they aren't paid large salaries. As such the large amount of base income that YT buildings provide is very effective.
The economic buildings (Purple) are your basic income buildings, along with the communal inn. You should build in accordance to what resources are available in the province. The labour housing building is a good building to have if the province ends up being both a commerce and industry province. This may happen often if you have an artisan building for industry purposes or vice versa. It provides a basic income for both industry and commerce, which is extremely powerful.
The agriculture buildings (Green) are for peasantry income, which is very viable as yellow turbans, and also for food. In any province that has a livestock farm, rice paddy, or farmland, you should build a farmer housing. Perhaps just leave it there if you want to develop the province into another type of income, however if you plan to do peasantry income you should build all three, they are all very powerful. The grain storage actually provides a base income, while also providing public order, this deals with some of the population unrest while simultaneously providing another base income to be multiplied by modifiers. The farming building chain is also very good, at level 5 it is worth 270 base peasantry and 6 food. If you built farmer housing, you should see good population growth, which is tied to peasantry income, and provides a huge modifier.
The learning and market buildings (Blue) are for global XP and commerce income. You should build a communal inn wherever you can, to an extent. This is because it provides global satisfaction and the power of this cannot be understated. In the later stages of the game this global bonus from many inns can alone sustain permanent high satisfaction for all characters. The high satisfaction bonus further reduces corruption, which is important. Schools should be built in provinces that are unlikely to be properly economically developed.
The military buildings (Red) are three buildings rather different in use. The first one, recruitment, is useful in key recruiting areas. In the case of He Yi, he receives a recruiting discount in areas of high population, it is not insignificant to be able to raise high level armies quickly and cheap. The second building is forges, this building is insanely good, it provides 10% replenishment at level 1 and 20% at level 2. Along with a fair amount of base industry and a small modifier. When it comes to industry, small modifiers have great impact as industry base numbers are much higher than commerce. The last building is garrisons. Yellow turbans garrisons are not very good, this building is a decent option for areas you know you will be doing a lot of fighting in, but otherwise it may simply be better to ignore it. An example of where you might use a garrison is in Huang Shao's start, where luck determines how many fights will come to you early. if Yuan Shao crosses the river, Liu Bei brings two stacks, Tao Qian comes up, and Wang lang follows him, you won't regret having the garrison building.
Lastly, the government buildings (Yellow). The temple provides some bonus income modifier while also providing public order, it is rare that you might need to build this building, but it is a solid choice for an economic province that suffers from bad public order. Headquarters is a building that is good in a province where you plan to raise troops. Often headquarters should be built in areas you have just conquered, because this will allow you to control public order there easily without turning off the taxes, hopefully. Additionally the discount to recruiting will help if you need to raise new armies or new troops to assist the attacking army. Esotericism is a building chain that increases research rate primarily. You should build outside of your economic provinces, and often in smaller provinces that you don't want to spend the money and time upgrading, you might choose to simply put a Esotericism building, along with an inn as all the building in the district. That province can also just be put to tax free to deal with public order.
Unique Buildings. I won't cover all of them, but a few key ones should be noted. Copper mines provide a -4% corruption rate when fully upgraded, this can be useful. Pengcheng, Grand Temple of the Way, its a beautiful name, it provides 20% research rate primarily. Research rate is definitely a useful stat, this is a useful building, but not necessary. Almost all characters can take a skill that gives them +10 percent research rate.
He Yi's special Healing branch provides a steady growth of population and public order. it is a useful building for peasantry provinces, since you would rather build this than the labour housing. It provides an offset to population unrest, and increases population, its perfect for peasantry. It also synergizes with He Yi's recruitment discount in areas of high population.
Gong Du's Guerilla Warfare branch increases post battle loot globally, 25% at max rank, this is not insignificant. Consider that many characters, veterans are most likely to have it, a skill that increases post battle loot by 50% while they are there. Combine that with a load of these building here or there, and you will be making massive amounts of money fighting enemy armies.
Huang Shao's Gardens building is extremely powerful, one of the main incentives to play his faction. It increases global research and satisfaction. You can build this in place of inn's in non-economic provinces when playing Huang Shao. With Huang Shao, between the 10% from characters, and the gardens, you can research powerful techs extremely quickly.
Remember that cities provide stats too. In addition to having more building slots, they also provide an overall bonus income to commerce income and allow for more population.
Do not underestimate the power of having a harbour building chain available in a city. You should treat it as though it was its own commerce resource.
Assignments are an important part of managing the economy among other things.
The assignments available are as follows:
- Promote wisdom
- Inspire populace
- Supervise construction
- Encourage humility
Promote wisdom is not particularly useful, unless you have a specific objective. Example: To level up archery masters. Inspire populace is a good band-aid solution to areas with bad faction support that you still wish to tax, or areas that are suffering from bad public order due to over-population.
Supervise construction is a great assignment that should be used in conjunction with development planning early game to seriously speed things up, consider that once the upgrade is started, you can recall the heroes on assignment, and assign them elsewhere next turn, this can save time.
Encourage humility is an excellent assignment to control corruption if needed. This is usually not necessary but is also a good situation. I will have a dedicated section on corruption later.
- Stimulate markets
- Encourage compassion
- Employ volunteers
- Healing rituals
Stimulate markets is rather straight forward. It is very good in commerce districts. Encourage compassion can be further stacked with He Yi's population, and sympathizer meeting place building chains to raise armies very fast and for cheap. I find it is seldom used.
Employ volunteers, good tech to supplement peasantry income. You will not usually be pressed for food in the mid-late game due to technologies.
Healing rituals is like conscription from the Han factions, but its more compassionate I suppose. I find it is also seldom used, but it can be useful where replenishment is low.
- Development planning
- Agricultural Exploitation
- Rally sympathizers
- Encourage frugality
Development planning, see supervise construction area above. Agricultural exploitation, usually not necessary, but use it if you need to. Note: When Yuan shao takes your farm as Huang Shao, you should use this. Rally sympathizers, this is not an assignment you usually plan around, but it can be useful depending on the situation. You will most likely never use it.
Encourage frugality, very good. Most economic provinces as yellow turbans usually end up as hybrid commerce industry, or pure peasantry. This assignment works well if you have a few very strong provinces that you want to stack more modifiers on.
Note that you might occasionally have a hero that can perform 'regular' assignments. Assignments are usually tied to skills, so they may have a skill that normal Han generals also have.
Corruption and How to Deal with It
Corruption is actually very easily dealt with as Yellow turban factions.
Not all of your provinces are going to be economic, and those that are, should a administrator. The administrator should be a scholar almost every time. Unless someone else has a great trait. This is because scholars are tied to expertise, which lower building costs, they have a skill that reduces local building time by 1, and most importantly, they have a skill called 'Integrity'
Integrity increases their satisfaction by 20, which can be useful, but more importantly gives you -20% corruption locally.
Everyone Yellow turban faction gets -10% base corruption, an administrator is -30%, integrity is -20%.
Thats -60% already, not to mention the other benefits.
The thing is... Integrity stacks. So if you put another scholar there, or 2 more scholars there, there will be no corruption.
This is actually rather easy to achieve since salaries are very low for YT factions, meaning that if you can maintain satisfaction, you can just keep everyone around in your faction. Every uncommon talent, every local hero, every captured officer etc etc.
By the time salary does become significant, your economy should be robust enough to handle it, and there is also a tech in the book of heaven that lowers salary by 50%.
Having copper mines, people with the honest trait in lord positions, and discourses of the states can also serve to lower corruption.
A great duelist who also has great support skills. Some army compositions are enabled entirely by his favorable skies ability. It is really good. In the early stages of a fight you want to keep him near your archers and let them unload their ammo with his ranged damage bonus.
He lowers upkeep cost for archers in his faction by 15%. The 6 morale helps with peasant units, but you shouldn't be using much of those anyways.
Like many scholars, Huang Shao becomes a very strong duelist when he reaches over 100 evasion.
Provides a 10% evasion bonus to his entire faction, very strong when combined with his 'One with the People'. it means that a generic unit put beside him while he holds a lord position will have 25% bonus evasion.
He Yi is also a master at dueling because of his ability, 'Judgement' It does a ton of damage and lowers the enemy damage by 50% for the next 30 seconds, note that this affects non-AP damage.
His 'One with the Land' ability is not great, but he does have 'Desperate Cry' which is very powerful, but can only be used when the enemy has greater forces than you, which is pretty often in the early game. Killing ground is an AOE attack that does good damage, his high armor makes him very good at dealing with units.
A decent duelist, he would win against most, but lose to high dodge enemies or high armor piercing damage.
His faction-wide traits are not really worth considering, but his dueling is off the charts. Unyielding earth gives him over 100% evasion, and having wisdom of the river on a duelist means that he can rid the enemy of all their armor and evasion.
His title is 'the most powerful' and its really not an exaggeration. He easily reaches over 100% evasion early on with He Yi's faction bonus, he has binding fury, in combination with his high evasion, this makes him a master duelist.
What really makes He Man ridiculous is hail of arrows. Position yourself well, and this ability is just bonkers. It shreds bad units and good units alike.
He Man also has surprise attack, which can be used for positioning or just for damage while fighting. It may be counter-intuitive, but hail of arrows also shreds heroes.
Solid hero, not particularly special, but he does have natures ally, that is 10 morale that stacks with other morale bonuses in the yellow turban faction. Such as 'One with the People' and 'Knowledge of the Spirit'
He does have binding fury, so he is fine as a duelist against most enemies. Watch for AP damage.
In this part, i will speak of what is useful and good about the following heroes. Each army should ideally have one of each, I will highlight which units are available to each class when I go over the units.
High dodge heroes with an innate attack speed buff, this means that they should use paired swords, or other high damage weapons when intended to be duelists. They fight regular units well, its not true that they are 'easily overwhelmed' Once they get enough evasion, Fighting crowds of enemies isn't a huge issue. Condemn makes them even better in duels and is an AOE attack that can be used on regular units effectively. The attack happens in front of them, so pay attention to it. Preach is a skill that can be used when out of combat, it gives 50% armor to units, and 15% evasion. You've probably extrapolated that based on how much I harp on about evasion that it is a good stat to have, provided you're not surrounded anyways. That 50% armor is useful in melee grinds, but its usefulness is hard to measure if you're being shot at the whole time. Its tempting to use stuff like military swords or other weapons that increase expertise at the cost of being low damage weapons. I suggest the opposite, using paired swords and axes where you can, the damage really shows in battle.
Low armor and low attack speed heroes, but they have very useful skills. You might even say 'Knowledge of the Body' is the defining skill of any yellow turban army. This essentially allows your generals to full heal 3 times a fight, with 5 minutes in between (highest unit size, not sure about lower sizes). It will rarely be used more than once, but it is always an option. Knowledge of the mind is an AOE attack that lowers morale by 50. As you might be able to imagine, this sounds really strong. It sends essentially any unit routing after the early game. You should note that vanguards have very low morale, and when dueled by healers, they can be sent routing out of the fight with this ability. It has a 5 minute cooldown, expect to use it once a fight most fight. A healer should probably spend most of his time fighting sword/sabre infantry and away from enemy heroes if you can help it. You could also just have your heroes travel together and fight stuff together, whatever works. Just note that although they have a good morale skill, they do run fairly easily if they are wounded.
High armor, low evasion, normal melee stats. commanding shout is not a particularly useful skill, but it does enable unbreakable, which can be useful in the later stages of a fight. Strength of the land is a very good passive to have, and together with the commanding shout, you may have this general travel with the cavalry in the early stages of any fight. What really takes the cake though, is disorientate. This skill is like Lu Bu's gaze, it stops any enemies near him for 10 seconds. This is most effective when you have to get rid of a threat such as a lance cavalry or a strong infantry unit. You freeze it with this ability and your archers won't miss. Or maybe they will, if they're peasants.
Note about Army Composition
Yt probably have the most diverse roster, and therefore can pretty much do whatever you want to do. It should be noted as a general premise that as your units get better you should use less ranged units. As the even the best melee units cannot cover more land at once, usually the opposite. Yellow turban archers are powerful enough to eliminate large threats before they run out of ammo, at which point your heroes and melee units can clean up.
I suggest using roughly 5-6 ranged units in an army, including artillery if you choose to bring it.
You really just should not use peasants, besides peasant spearmen. You could hire peasant warriors and just throw them into the enemy to waste ammo, but its not necessary, YT units have shields, most of them.
You might use peasant archers, if you were desperate, but YT have such good archer options, and ranged damage is very important.
Yellow Turban Horsemen
Its not the worst unit, its alright for running down archers and stuff. Charging the back of units, I suppose. I wouldn't use too many outside of the early game. Its a solid basic cavalry, but it gets trashed by even lance militia cavalry.
Yellow Turban Warriors
This is a good baseline unit, with some buffs from heroes, chanters, and faction-wide bonuses, this can be the foundation of your front line.
Yellow Turban Spearmen
This should be what is used to protect your flanks nearly all game.
Yellow Turban Archers
This unit is actually not particularly bad all things considered, but the yellow turbans have superb ranged units, if anything make your front line cheaper and use more expensive ranged units.
These units are available to all classes of heroes.
Units (Book of Heaven)
The number in the parentheses is the upkeep, without modifiers. There are many modifiers, so don't let the numbers scare you.
Militia of Virtue (145)
This unit is rather interesting. its low unit size, lack of shields and militia status make it seem weak, but this unit will seriously mess up a protectors of heaven in a grind out fight. It is unbreakable and has very good melee stats. I would not suggest using them since they are very weak to ranged damage, but it worth considering In Huang Shao's army.
This unit is very good, most yellow turban armies have many melee units, since your ranged units are so powerful and you do not need many of them. Use one in an army and have them stand behind your fighting units, do not worry if they are being shot at, just make sure they don't rout if possible.
Venerable Wu (240)
This unit is interesting, but its low unit size and its tendency to get focused by the AI makes it difficult to use effectively. It has good stats, but has issues working effectively due to its cost and unit size.
Archery Masters (265)
Possibly one of the best units in the game. At level 8, they unleash one volley of 120 arrows per second dealing damage extremely quickly. They do 38non-ap and 12ap damage per arrow. With 225 range, this means that any archers that enter their range will be shredded and ground to dust before they can do anything. They have a base 40% ranged block chance, meaning they won't get murdered by archers, but you should not let them be shot if possible, since each dead unit lowers your overall unit dps and total damage capacity. They have high morale and are bad in melee.
Scholar Warriors (265)
The melee counterpart of the Archery Masters. This unit has encourage, so if you find your generals are usually not near your units, you should run this unit for morale purposes. This unit will easily almost any other melee unit in the game regardless of the situation, but they are expensive and not the best option when most of the fighting is not taking place in melee. If most of your fighting is taking place in melee, it means you are often very outnumbered, or you are not bringing enough ranged units. if you are often outnumbered, and you do not wish to raise another army, this is a good option.
The units unlocked in the Book of Heaven are available to Scholars.
Units (Book of the People)
The number in the parentheses represent upkeep.
People's Warband (140)
This may simply seem like a peasant unit, but not so. Its a dual sword infantry, it does a crazy amount of damage for an early game unit, but it does not have shields. If you want to use this unit, I suggest using two of them and leaving them near the archers until melee fighting has broken out. Then either move these units through your own troops, or withdraw the troops and send them in. They will carve up militia very easily.
White Wave Horsemen (200)
Very solid horse unit, probably the only one you will use. They have solid charge, and can fill many roles in an army. Unlocked very early, but very pricy early.
White Wave Veterans (170)
This unit has rather high charge for infantry, and good general stats, I think you might be overpaying for this unit since its only better if you plan to go on the offense. charging enemies can throw off your formation and reduces the amount of time your archers have to fire.
Bringers of Righteousness (185)
Certainly an interesting unit. They bring a glaive and a bow to battle. Which means there wasn't room for a shield. The unit is fairly expensive, but for the role it performs you might be able to justify it. The issue is, while this unit is getting shot by archers, all it can do is shoot back and trade. The armor on this unit is not exceptional, and its ranged damage is very normal. If paired with Huang Shao, this unit could be very strong, otherwise this unit is probably too expensive.
This unit has very good melee stats, high evasion, high armor, low unit count. This means it is not an effective unit for covering a lot of land. It is however unbreakable and will win in many grind out fights. It is rather expensive, but can see good use in some armies. For example, with the base armor stat of the YouXia, a scholar using preach will boost their armor over 100%, making them immune to all non armor piercing damage.
This unit is an artillery piece its the same one the Han factions use. Its a necessity to launch siege battles instantly, its also probably the worst balanced unit in the game.
Arm of the Supreme Peace (265)
Alright I lied, this might be the worst balanced unit in the game. I tested this a few times, and it just doesn't really work. Unlike the Youxia, this unit does not have shields, or have good stats. It also has half the people of a Youxia, which means it has 1/4 the units of a normal unit. So although it has melee splash attacks, it typically gets focused and murdered by ranged units. Perhaps it can be hidden inside a regular warrior unit to help absorb some of the damage. it is a very expensive unit that is hard to use.
The units unlocked in the Book of the People are available to Healers.
Units (Book of the Land)
Men of the Forest (140)
This unit is lovely. Especially the name, but it functions extremely well in battle. They have roughly even armor piercing and non armor piercing damage. They have guerilla deployment in the case that you want to try and interesting strategy with them. it is a very solid unit that can be used the whole game without issue. Do not hesitate to use ranged units together, regardless of range difference, they will serve purposes in battle, and you will not regret having them.
You will probably have noticed that this unit is rather expensive for a unit unlocked so early. It almost rivals the White Wave Horsemen, so why use this unit? This unit is effectively the spear guards of the yellow turban factions. It has solid stats, a large shield that blocks 70%(50+20) of shots that hit it from the front, and they have a bit of armor as well. it's a very good unit all things considered, but in most army compositions, this unit is just overkill.
Horseback Huntsmen (105)
This unit is really bad. I usually have something good to say about every unit, but this unit is very difficult to use. Very micro intensive, doesn't really do any damage. It says it has 200 range, but at any realistic level, its more like 180. Its hard to get all the horses firing at once if you try to use all 200 of the range, and they have no melee stats, so once they're out of ammo, they do nothing.
Watchmen of the Peace (160)
Superb unit. 250 range, huge damage. This unit is expert at killing horses, especially paired with a veterans snare. It has a shield It will shred armored units easily and do great damage no matter what. It can double as a decent melee unit after it has used its ammo. It does have rather limited ammo.
Guardians of the Land (185)
This unit is rather good if it comes down to a grind, since it has good armor piercing damage and good stats, but it has no shield. this is less relevant for this unit though, since if you were to use it you would use it on the flanks, and then re-position the unit as necessary. You should however ask yourself whether it is worth using this unit over the reclaimer.
Virtuous Noblemen (265)
its a lovable idea, but it falls flat, like the other high end units, its rather niche. Its a horseman that has low units, this makes it not ideal against other horsemen, its charge is pretty average. it would be the ultimate archer chaser I suppose. In the late game upgrading from a White Wave Horsemen (200) to this would only be a 65 gold difference.
General Campaign Tips
Do not rush up the enlightenment tree. Its better to be well situated before you reach the rank of ascended. Don't purposely delay it obviously, let it happen at its own pace.
Prioritize the following skills:
- Insight (Research rate)
- Integrity (Corruption control)
- Inspiration (Commerce income)
- Tranquility (Peasantry income)
- Focus (Industry income)
- Resolution (Construction time, local)
- Opportunism (Post battle income)
I suggest focusing on the first group and then the second, picking up the third for characters that are likely to use them.
Know that until you reach the rank of Healed, you cannot make peace unless the treaty is in your favor. This will usually be after you have defeated their armies.
Read carefully what the positions in your court do, the lords of Heaven, Land, and the People apply their faction-wide bonuses/ancillaries.
Do not try to build up all your provinces at once. Instead build the economic ones first, then build strong food provinces.
If most of your income is peasantry related, know that having a store of food will increase the amount of money peasantry makes.
In the late game, you may begin to have Han faction friends. Until then, be careful to do your best to eliminate factions that are hostile to you. Do not let them re-organize their forces. They will not honor their agreements with you.
The Yellow Emperor
The corrupt ambitions of the Han warlords crumble below the strength of your great cause. You march on to capture the emperor seat of a pretender.
You will now be presented with three options.
Factionwide food, peasantry, and construction bonuses.
I find this choice is usually unnecessary at this stage of the game, you likely own like 1/7 of the map and have great access to money and resources.
Factionwide bonus to commerce income and negates the -40 diplomacy debuff.
I find to be a half decent option, if you hope to ally, or at least not be at war with some of the Han warlords. the commerce income is not a particularly large amount.
Factionwide Retinue upkeep reduction. 25% upkeep reduction. This is truly powerful. Along with the technology that gives -10% that means all armies are 35% cheaper without other discounts.
Your faction leader will assume the rank of Yellow Sky Emperor, and provide +10 Satisfaction globally, and 20% Experience globally.
A note, there can be multiple Yellow Sky Emperors, if a Yt faction is destroyed and they had a Yellow Sky Emperor, they will join your faction as a Yellow Sky Emperor.
The Leader of the People
This section will talk about He Yi's start.
I assume you intend to stay in the Runan area and defeat the warlords there.
Your initial threats are Liu Biao, Yuan Shu, Huang Zu, Cai Mao, Kong Zhou, and Cao Cao.
In the early part of the campaign, you want to deal with Huang Zu's army, and possibly take Jiangxia farmland. This way you can ignore him for a little while. Liu Biao will come with a full stack to attack the iron mine, I suggest employing an ambush to deal with him, regardless of whether the ambush works, it should not be a difficult fight. Although it makes sense to hire scholar-healer-veteran. He Yi does not really fulfill the normal role of a healer since he does not heal. I suggest getting another healer when possible. Try to get peace with Liu Biao once you can, if you cannot, try and finish Huang Zu or Cai Mao. watch out for Kong Zhou attacking Runan, you will not be able to see his army the turn before he makes the attack.
Yuan Shu will declare war on you pretty much no matter what, so deal with his army once you can. Sack Nanyang mine if you are in a position to do so easily and not get mauled. Get peace with whoever you can, and assume they will declare war again in 10 turns. Once you meet Cao Cao, he will probably declare war on you as well. Deal with his armies using ambushes if you can, the land in his provinces tends force armies in particular places when moving. The land in Cao Cao's area is rather far apart movement wise, so you can probably catch his armies away from their garrisons.
Ultimately, the early game for this start has to be played by ear, but you should assume everyone will declare war on you and know that Liu Biao and Yuan Shu are your Main threats early. Then you should try to take land away from Cao Cao, hopefully eliminate his faction, and then begin to go downwards while taking Han territory. Provinces like Guangling, Jianye, Donghai, Lujiang, are fairly easy to defend. You may be attacked from the river, but at this stage of the game you can probably afford small garrisons where they are needed. Build garrison buildings in areas where there is tons of fighting.
The Master of the Land
Gong Du's start with probably the most straightforward of the Yellow Turbans.
You can annex Wudu on turn one, you will have to fight Ma Teng's army on the defense, You will certainly be outnumbered, which unlocks desperate cry. You can also rely on the town towers to do good work.
From here, you can choose to go upwards and take out Ma Teng and Han Sui. This does open a new case of worms named Dong Zhuo though. More specifically, Lu Bu. he is rather difficult to deal with, your generals will not do well in a duel against him, and they probably won't do well in a fight either. perhaps get a healer and let him heal your generals as they fight and get smacked for like 8k damage per hit. You can beat him, but his cavalry will also outclass yours, It is a very difficult fight. I suggest bringing watchmen of the peace, and focusing down his cavalry.
The other option is to go south. There are some very good provinces south, such as Jiangyang and Baxi. These provinces can easily become your economic powerhouses. Baxi and Ba also have farms, meaning your Food situation should be taken care of. I would suggest picking up Shangyong weapons craftsmen, but do not take the entire province. That would likely cause a war with Yuan Shu or Liu Biao.
The Wielder of the Heavenly Way
He Yi starts near many major powers, making his start fairly difficult. Huang Shao however, starts near Yuan Shao and Liu Bei, meaning if the wrong things happen, the campaign will be very difficult.
There are two strategies you can employ. The first one is you sit in Dong, and save money, then recruit 2-3 more archery masters, and some cavalry. Now you have a very good army you can use to beat most armies easily. I suggest using a healer as the third hero in the roster.
Inevitably you will have to fight Liu Bei and his sworn brothers. All three of them have great gear, and if you can beat them in battle, you might get it. Its not going to be easy, but your units will outclass his, and you should be able to bring down his generals with your own. Do not be fighting multiple generals at the same time, you will lose. Use a unit to distract them and isolate them.
After beating Liu bei, you can then choose to finish him off and begin working on Kong Rong. Usually Kong Rong will not bother you, because he is too busy taking Langye and Donglai. If he does come for you, try using an ambush, and build forges like everywhere early game. You need the replenishment.
Yuan Shao will take the farm across the river, and probably also sail down to Dong, so make sure there is a garrison building there along with some generals that can fight off him and his guard dogs
Do not be afraid to use your healer in duels if knowledge of the mind is available and the enemy hero has less than 50 morale. You will rout them even if the attack misses.
The second option is a bit more, dangerous. Liu Bei will almost always attack Taishan with his second stack, you want to meet it there, usually in ambush, he will probably attack Dong if he sees you. The key here, is you want to have Taishan's garrison available to make up for the lack of good units early. I suggest recruiting some Men of the forest for Pei yuanshao if possible, peasant units can be used as distractions for enemy ranged units, don't make them fight in melee, they do next to nothing.
if you deal with his second army or first next Taishan, you should be good to attack his main army now, as he won't have the second army to mob you to death with. Do not attack in settlement, attempt ambushes where possible, but otherwise put him under siege and force him to come out against you. Use your cavalry to kill rout his archers, and make sure to do charges into masses groups of enemies on your frontline. Keep your healer near your units to prevent routing.
After dealing with Liu Bei, you should fight Kong Rong. Tao Qian/ Tao Ying, along with Wang Lang should accept peace once you reach the rank of healed, just buy them off with an ancillary or two. Once you consolidated the area to the east, make sure to build a few gardens to help with satisfaction. You want to have many characters, but having low satisfaction sucks.
In both cases, make sure to fortify Dong, and use the veteran assignment to manage food if needed. Bring your main army back to deal with Yuan Shao if it is necessary. If you do this though, he will likely develop a personal rivalry with Huang Shao, which creates another -50 in diplomacy, making future peace harder.